New Zealand suffers unprecedented flooding

Flash floods and landslides on New Zealand’s north island have caused extensive damage, with Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, placed under a state of emergency. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins described the flood impact in the city as “unprecedented” in recent memory. 

The nation’s weather forecaster, MetService, warned of more severe weather today (30 January)  for the north island. Intense rainfall could also cause surface and flash flooding, it said.

“We know that there is potential for more adverse weather tonight,” Auckland Emergency Management controller Rachel Kelleher told reporters.

The emergency covers large swaths of the north island, with Waitomo District about 220 km (140 miles) from Auckland, declaring a state of emergency late on Saturday.

A man missing after being swept away on Friday in Onewhero, a rural village about 70 km (40 miles) south of Auckland, was confirmed dead, police said. 

“The most horrific part of it is that we’ve lost lives,” Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said in Auckland, a city of 1.6 million.

The county’s minister James Shaw noted the link to climate change on Saturday when he tweeted his support for those affected by flooding.

Police said on Sunday they were assisting with traffic management and road closures in Waitomo District after heavy rainfall “caused numerous slips, flooding and damage to roads”.

In nearby Bay of Plenty there was also “widespread flooding”, police said, as well as a landslide that had knocked down a house and was threatening neighbouring properties.

Thousands of properties remained without power, while hundreds were without water, authorities said.

Despite the damage, Air New Zealand resumed international flights in and out of Auckland at noon on Sunday (2300 GMT on Saturday).

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins described the flood impact in the city as “unprecedented” in recent memory.